Semantics and Architecture: Reflections and Method Proposal for the Recognition of Semantically-Defined Architectural Forms

Semantics and Architecture: Reflections and Method Proposal for the Recognition of Semantically-Defined Architectural Forms

Valeria Cera (Department of Architecture, University of Naples, Italy)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1234-0.ch014


In the field of cultural heritage, a significant amount of research has been conducted to allow domain experts to represent semantic data while keeping spatial references. The organization of architectural shapes in significant concepts, in the context of semantic annotation, is carried out in various ways. This chapter analyzes them, highlighting some substantial questions: the semantic ambiguity and the uncertainty. These questions are addressed after a careful reflection on the theoretical basis for a semantic reading of architecture. The chapter proposes some operative solutions: the use of an international thesaurus to resolve linguistic ambiguity; the coding of semantic maps to solve the annotation uncertainty.
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The documentation effort in the field of cultural heritage is one of the biggest challenges within today’s scientific community.

The use of new technologies in the three-dimensional digitalization of spatial shapes represents an effective support in the analysis of the historic fabric. The provided digital representations are intended as discretized copies of the real artefact with an impressive informative value, as far as geometric precision, morphological richness, and metric and colorimetric data quality are concerned. Besides three-dimensional data, a large amount of heterogeneous information substantiates the architectural documentation and its testifying knowledge. It deals with data provided by a multiplicity of experts variously involved in the study of the constructed heritage and coming from diverse disciplinary sectors. Connected to their different skills and knowledge competences, the scholars involved can therefore produce data structured in various formats and organized to be exploited for different inquiry goals. On one hand, preservation and restoration experts tend to use traditional techniques to describe the buildings’ morphology and condition by means of bi-dimensional images or even translucent paper for the cartographic documentation. Their contribution is complemented with the one provided by historians, whose knowledge is connected to the literary production and to representations confined to the bi-dimensionality. On the other hand, various experts are charged with the acquisition of spatial information captured as point clouds, scientific images – such as IR thermography, satellite images, UV maps, depth maps, parametric and not-parametric models – structured for field analysis concerned with mechanical stress or energy behavior.

The joining point of this heterogeneous information, whether quantitative (extracted from a survey) or qualitative (produced through the interpretation of the acquired data during the analysis of the documentary sources), is represented by the architectural form.

The collection of historical artefact descriptions evidently hinges on the morphology of the created object, whose shapes can be connected to the various products collected during the documentary analysis. Therefore, if, on one hand, the digital representation of a structure is not sufficient for the description and comprehension of its complexity; on the other hand, the three-dimensional model becomes the means to access the different heterogeneous pieces of information, which make the representation interpretable, considering the multiple factors that describe it.

A fair number of researches focused on the identification of solutions, theoretical and methodological, for the interconnection of the diversified information. Protocols and models have been developed to integrate the spatial data of the digital representation with other types of representation (geographical, historical, or documentary ones), by connecting the documentation to semantic description models.

The semantic enrichment of architectural three-dimensional data allows the spatialization of the knowledge, elevating the formal reconstruction of a historical artefact to an interface for the analysis, the research and the sharing of informative resources. The structuration of the aforementioned semantically spatialized information complies effectively with the documentation and interoperability requirements typical of the interdisciplinary studies, enhancing the data sharing and the collaborative creation of knowledge.

At the same time, the development of models for the semantic organization lies in the disciplinary intersection represented by historical sciences – concerned with the documentation of the constructed heritage – and computer sciences – concerned with the information and communication technologies. The consistent progress in the design of platforms and solutions for data sharing is enabling the segmentation and semantization of the amount of acquired information. The semantic structuration thus allows to model data according to the specific object category and to the related analysis type. In addition to that, the contemporary work platforms offer a system architecture capable of archiving, classifying, and structuring the information coming from different disciplinary fields inside databases which are also adaptable to different user profiles.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Semiology: The theory of signs, whichever they might be, verbal or non-verbal.

Semiotics: General science of signs, of their production, transmission and interpretation, or of the ways in which to communicate and give the meaning to something, or to produce a symbolic object. Semantics and semiology are now considered synonymous.

Linguistics: Science which systematically studies human language in the totality of its manifestation, and, therefore, languages as historical and social institutes, their reakdown, their reciprocal relationships as well as the functionality of individual languages under different aspects (phonetic, syntactic, lexical, semantic), both in their structure in a specific moment of their history and in their evolution through time.

Semantics: Branch of linguistics which deals with the language phenomena, not from the phonetic or morphological point of view, but with a view on their meaning.

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